Yoga and Its Mental Health Benefits

Yoga is a practice that has been around for centuries. While it did see some modifications over time, modern-day health practitioners have started realizing the benefits it offers. As a result, they advise many people to include this activity in their lifestyle.

The number of people practicing yoga has also increased rapidly. According to Statista, the number of people in the US who practiced yoga was around 34.4 million in 2021. This shows a major increase from almost a decade earlier (2010) when the number of people who practiced yoga in the US was around 21 million.

As a therapeutic practice, yoga can easily be adapted and modified according to your needs and preferences. So, what are some other benefits that you can get from practicing yoga?

What is Yoga?

Before we move on to the benefits of yoga, you need to understand what it is. Knowing what the practice is about is essential to implementing it properly and maximizing the benefits it offers. It is an osteopathic approach to wellness that pays attention to the body’s natural tendency toward self-healing.

There are various schools of thought or types when it comes to yoga. Most of them include exercises that focus on breathing and meditation. They also include postures (also referred to as asana or poses) that stretch different muscles in your body.

When you start practicing yoga, it’s important to focus on these activities to ensure that you make the most of what yoga has to offer. These days, most people are aware of the asanas used in yoga. However, there are other elements that are part of yoga as well, such as lifestyle changes and meditation.

Some practitioners consider yoga as a way to escape negative emotions and thoughts. Despite the benefits yoga provides, keep in mind that it’s most effective when paired with a comprehensive treatment plan. Usually, this includes evidence-based techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy by URP and pharmacotherapy. Consequently, yoga is a part of the holistic approach to treatment, which focuses on improving mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

5 Benefits of Doing Yoga

Ideally, you should learn yoga by consulting a trained and qualified practitioner. They will ensure that your poses are correct and will modify them if needed. Plus, a qualified teacher will also provide you with the relevant blocks, straps, and other items needed to help with your posture. Once you have a skilled practitioner to guide you and the right equipment, you’re set to gain the following benefits:

1. Helps You with Your Concentration Level

According to a study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a 20-minute session of yoga helped the participants increase their focus levels. Not only that, but they will also be able to process information more efficiently and accurately. The study examined 30 female students who practiced aerobics as well.

Upon concluding the study, researchers found that students had much better accuracy and shorter reaction times after practicing yoga. Therefore, yoga has been proven to be a much more effective technique when it comes to other forms of exercise, like aerobics.

2. Decreases Your Anxiety and Depression

Yoga is an effective practice for alleviating stress levels. Moreover, research also shows that it can help you manage overwhelming and stressful emotions in a healthier way. Yoga’s mindfulness practices, which include breathing techniques and poses, can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it signals the body to feel relaxed and at ease.

Furthermore, it can also stimulate the production of GABA in the body. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that performs a variety of functions, such as reducing brain activity to alleviate anxiety and helping you fall asleep.

3. Decreases Anger and Improves Sleep

Yoga plays a major role in emotional regulation. This is particularly the case when you are dealing with emotions like anger and frustration. By practicing yoga regularly, you enter a mental space where you can explore different feelings. It’s likely that you will encounter uncomfortable and negative feelings like anger. Instead of judging these feelings, stay calm and accept them as they come.

Practicing yoga can also improve your sleep quality, which makes it a beneficial activity for insomniacs. For instance, you can learn breathing exercises called pranayamas, which slow your breathing and relax your mind, allowing you to fall asleep faster.

4. Reduces Stress

The day-to-day stressors coming your way can make you feel overwhelmed. When these stressors accumulate, they can contribute to a higher risk of developing mental and physical health conditions. To prevent this from happening, you need effective ways to manage this stress. That is where yoga can act as a tool for your stress management.

One of the biggest ways that it counters stress is that it reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It can also increase your serotonin levels, an imbalance that can result in feelings of depression or anxiety.

5. Sharpens Your Brain

Lastly, it sharpens your brain, which means an increase in focus and concentration levels. Yoga, especially Iyengar yoga, is a well-known practice that helps you become aware of your body as it moves in certain poses.

With time, the act of staying present will allow you to increase your overall mental clarity. Studies show that practicing yoga can even prevent certain areas of the brain from shrinking. Specifically, it includes parts of the brain that impact cognition and memory.

Final Word

Yoga is an effective practice for achieving clarity and peace of mind, which can improve productivity and happiness levels. Of course, it’s important that you do it in the right way. While everyone can benefit from yoga in some way, you should still consult your mental health practitioner to determine if it’s the right option for you, depending on your condition.